WAIPOULI — Affordable housing advocates are asking state and county lawmakers to purchase the Courtyards at Waipouli apartments and make a 60-year commitment to securing all 82 units as affordable housing.
Kenna StormoGipson, the director of housing policy for the Hawai‘i Budget and Policy Center, helped organize a press conference on May 31, where 10 to 20 community members and residents turned out to call for the $42 million government purchase.
StormoGipson acknowledged $42 million as a significant amount of state and federal tax dollars, but “construction costs alone” for making a new affordable housing building would be much higher,” she said in an interview with The Garden Island at the event. “You save money because it’s already built.”
The two-story complex was built in 2009 under the Kaua‘i Lagoons Affordable Housing Agreement, where the owner, KD Waipouli LLC, was required to charge affordable rents for 41 — or 50 percent — of the units for the first 10 years after its construction.
When the affordability restriction expired in August 2019, the county had the option to purchase the property through a first-right-to-purchase clause. But the county declined to purchase the property.
“The county didn’t have the funds at the time to purchase, and so they requested that the state consider
investing in it through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program,” said StormoGipson.
The state also decided not to invest in the project, and the 82 units, housing more than 200 residents, have since increased to private market rates. According to StormoGipson, rates have increased from $1,800 in 2019 to $2,900 in 2023.
StormoGipson noted that the complex’s original owners are now looking to sell the property, and it’s on the market.
“The real question is, ‘Will the state step in and purchase it?” she said.
The purchase would bring the apartment building “back to its original intent of affordable housing,” where rates would be set at $1,600 for a two-bedroom and $1,900 for a three-bedroom. That is “about half of what you would pay on the open market,” said StormoGipson.
An application has been submitted to the Hawai‘i Housing Finance and Development Corporation, asking the state to purchase the property through the use of federal and state low-income housing tax credits and secure all 82 units as affordable for 60 years.
StormoGipson said the state should be purchasing and rehabilitating more existing buildings to create more affordable housing.
“We should be going full speed ahead on this strategy because this is the fastest, quickest way to get affordable housing,” she said.
She said the state’s other options were waiting to purchase or constructing a new building, and those would only be more expensive.
“The real question is: Is it worth it to invest the money now so you have affordable housing right away? Or do you want to wait for another year, further down the road, when there’s not much to show things are gonna get cheaper,” said StormoGipson.
“We need an all-of-the-above approach for affordable housing in Hawai‘i. We need as many homes to have price restrictions and long affordability periods as quickly as possible.”
Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island